RAG Meetings

International Astronomy Show and Meal Afterwards!

I have to thank Andy, he persuaded me to go along to the event – which I think I enjoyed more having not been the previous year!

I had hoped to get along to at least one talk, but there were so many new things to see that we didn’t manage it! I didn’t intend to buy anything either, but I couldn’t resist in the end…  😉

The buying even started as we entered the event (after having had a chat with two local astronomy groups with tables in the foyer – good to get an idea of the type of leaflets others produce), when we came across some nice-hand made, stained glass, astro-themed decorations at £18 a pop!

a bit cheaper than the larger artworks, like this black hole inspired piece…


I was amazed to see (and get to play with), the new Nikon full frame D850 (£3500) as it only came out a few weeks ago, plus the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ‘Art’ lens (£1650).

I had been thinking it was time to upgrade the old 12Mp D3, but having talked to astrophotographer Nigel Ball (he had a stand at the show and was one of the lecturers on Friday), who uses a 12Mp D3s and newer 36Mp D810A with the same Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens I have, he said I may be better off looking for a second hand 16Mp D4s instead…. we’ll have to see…

As well as all the nice camera gear, I especially like the Panther Alt/Az mounts which I’d seen two years ago… I got to chat to the UK distributer, but more importantly the Danish designer. He explained how it tracks, how to use the superb hand controller and with the addition of the extra field de-rotator. how they got around the problem of long exposure photography on an alt/at mount.

Andy even challenged him to set up the mount within their advertised time frame (around 5 minutes). He managed it in half that time whilst Andy did his best to put him off – taking pictures of the poor chap!!!

But with the poor weather we’re having, dropping another £5k on a new mount, no matter how cool… seems rather crazy… I still like it though 🙄😀😳


It was cheaper though than the Austrian made ‘ASA’ Direct Drive mount (uses magnets rather than gears or a disc) that caught mine and Andy’s eye at the show, a ‘snip’ at a discounted……  £11.5K !

Something else that caught my eye (and a nice change from all the usual gear you expect to see), keeping with the artistic slant, was some astro-themed paintings… The one here on the lower right looked far better in real life than that printed in the show guide. Is it a galaxy or globular cluster… that’s for the observer to interpret!

We had a good chat to the artist and talked about how to break into this market – difficult when the work was selling at £700-800 for the smaller works and £2-3k for the bigger ones. Such a purchase in our household would include the two of us. At this sort of show, mostly men…. is ‘he’ really going to buy without the OK from the wife..?!

After the event we all got back together for an Italian at ‘Pizza By Goli’ in Lichfield – thanks to Stephen for organising and to Heather who we toasted for her work on RAGs new Charity Status!

Ooh yes, my purchase – a pair of Vixen SG  2.1 x 42mm ‘Galilean’ binoculars. Down to £199 from £259 from The Widescreen Centre. I remember seeing these when first released 4 years ago or so for around £229.

I even got a very quick chance to use them Saturday night once home before the clouds rolled in. The huge field of view is around 25 degrees, which allows you to see the entire ‘Square pf Pegasus’!

I added the below to show you the comparison with a Telrad view…

Only the central 40-50% is really clear, but it did allow me to see stars within ‘the square’ that I couldn’t see naked eye very clearly, if at all – these were around Mag 4.5-5.5. On a good night, especially in the summer when viewing the Milky Way from Hereford, Wales or on holiday in Austria – they should really come into their own and be good fun!


RAG Meeting – September 2017

A great evening, 30 members kicked off the second half of the year and enjoyed a fascinating talk by Peter Hill – telling us all about his US Solar Eclipse experience!

Here are some shots of Pete in ‘full flow’…

After tea, coffee and biscuits, Andy then presented the second half – An October/November Night Sky Tour (with a few newsy bits thrown in for good measure).


Those with binoculars and telescopes even got to use them afterwards (made a welcome change).


First RAG summer workshop 2017

We attended a great summer workshop session on Friday evening. Thanks to both Lee Bale and Ed Mann for delivering the education during the evening. Lee told us all how to clean telescope mirrors and pollinate mirrors – with practical demonstrations. Ed showed videos on the sun and calculating the number of galaxies in the visible universe. Following Lee’s session, I imagined we could develop be an interesting variant of the Generation Game and, following Ex’s session, I also imagined an outreach day activity in which participants undertook tasks such as the ones in Ed’s session!


Observing after RAG meeting 26/5/2017 @ 22:45 – 27/5/2017 @ 03:15.

Rosliston Forestry Centre – observing session after month RAG meeting.

Various telescopes and binoculars.

Clear sky had been predicted all week on BBC Weather website. Clear skies are unusual for our meetings!

I had the pleasure of delivering a marvellous talk Damian had prepared on observatories – following the theme of Ed Mann’s observatory build which he gave a talk about as part of the evening – so we were all hyped up as we went outside to see the night sky. In fact, it started with a call to get outside quick and see the ISS as it passed overhead (International Space Station). This turned out to be the first of no less than FOUR passes of the ISS this night. Wow!

At the start of the night the whole group went outside to observe together. We observed the Great Red Spot on Jupiter – pale with red line around it – and there were many oohs and abs, especially from some folks who had never looked through a telescope before. Later we saw Saturn low down with a variation red / blue across planetary disc due to atmospheric dispersion. We saw two passes of the ISS as large group and this resulted in more excitement in those new to the hobby. I was also excited myself to (with Damian’s help) to be able to follow the ISS with the telescope allowing me to observe its solar panels and shape for the first time.

Later on Damian, Rob and I continued to observe into the early hours.

A brilliant night – and one of those rare predictable clear evenings so we were able to come prepared with our telescopes.


Early session with whole group:

The group enjoyed the view of the ISS and Jupiter:

Ed Mann demonstrates his All Sky Camera:


The group enjoys the evening show – apart from ISS there was Jupiter, Saturn, Ring Nebula, Open and Globular Clusters:

Later observing session – Rob, Damian, Andrew:

After the rest of the group left, Damian, Rob and I continued observing. Observing highlights from our later session included:

We spent some considerable time in Hercules. We observed the inverted 5 asterism and Napolean’s Hat (Pico 1).

We spent a long time finding the faint NGC 6229 Globular cluster in Hercules in both mine and Rob’s scopes (magnitude 9+). We had never seen this before. Quite faint compared to the very bright M13 and M92 globular clusters. Rob’s 8 inch Skywatcher Dobsonian performed very well compared to the 10 inch Dobsonian – the latter was brighter but at expense much more expensive and larger instrument.

We got brilliant views of comet C/2015 V2 Johnson near the star Izar. This is the first time I have seen this comet and it turned out to be quite easy to find. This was because it was quite bright and also conveniently close to Izar tonight. Again the 10 inch gave a brighter more contrast view. Magnifying the comet using the 9mm Explore Scientific eyepiece led to tail being seen. Compared to globular clusters where magnification resulted in more detail as stars became resolved, this was not the case with the comet, other than bringing out the more condenser central nucleus surrounded by the corona.

Rob’s 8 inch split Albireo well with lovely sapphire blue and yellow stars.

The Ring Nebula was great in both scopes but particularly impressive with 6mm and 9mm WE in Orion ten inch.

Rob found the Dumbell Nebula with 25mm eyepiece in 8 inch – definite non curvulsr shape easily seen. The 8 inch is amazing value for money and a great lifetime scope – highly recommended – it gave fantastic views of this and many other objects tonight and on a £/excitement and view basis it could not be beat. The Dumbell Nebulla was very bright and big with 6mm Ethos on 10 inch – a better view as you would expect from a bigger more expensive scope but comparing the views you do need to ask is it worth going from £300 (Skywatcher 8 inch) to £900 (Orion 10″ Dobsonian) for the difference in views?

Two policemen visited the site and took time to look at the Ring Nebula, Saturn, and the comet with us.

The Coathanger Asterisk only just fitted in the field of view of the 42mm eyepiece on the 10 inch – easier to observe in binoculars.

Several meteors seen during the evening.

Rob found the Rocking Horse Cluster and the Cooling Tower in his scope.

I am confident that I found the Bridal Veil (eastern part) of the Veil Nebula (this is the type of object where the Orion with Explore Scientific eyepieces came into its own). I started by star hopping to 52 Cygni and confirming the star relative to the location on open cluster NGC 6940, which looks like a rugby ball occupying the whole field of view. I could then see the VERY faint curve of the nebula to the eastern side of this star. I could not see the Witches Broom. Damian denied being able to see it – but I don’t trust that observation!

Damian found the Owl Cluster in Rob’s Skywatcher and that pretty little open cluster generated although “Wow!” of the evening – in fact Rob got himself really quite excited with everything he was seeing. I wasn’t doing too badly myself!…..and Damian had meant to leave earlier but never quite got around to getting to his car.

I found the globular cluster M56 in the 42mm in the Orion near Albireo. Going straight to 9mm revealed a mini starfish shape, a bit off centre – not quite round. Grew in size when using averted vision.

I showed Rob M81 and M82 in the Orion. I gave myself a pat on the back for dropping straight on it, although in truth it was probably more luck than judgement.

The final ISS pass occurred as we were packing up just after 03:00.

It has been fantastic to get back outside observing after so long – and to go home again with birds singing and the dawn breaking……just like old times!


Rob with his Skywatcher 8 inch Dobsonian telescope (below):

The two policeman who got quite excited seeing Saturn and a comet through a telescope for the first time (below):
The Summer Triangle where a lot of our effort tonight was based (screenshot from Sky Safari Pro 5):

RAG Monthly Meeting – Friday, May 26th


Will you be at RAG this Friday, 26th May…?

Ed Mann is (inadvertently) responsible for the running theme of the evening!

We’ll be taking a look at the ins and outs of building your own observatory alongside the usual mix of news, reviews and my Night Sky piece….

Once again an enjoyable (and full) evening to look forward to!

See you at 7.30 then this Friday.


Guest lecture on our local star by Mark Townley

Mark Townley from Brierley Hill gave a fantastic guest lecture tonight on our local star – if you weren’t interested in observing the sun before this you were definitely interested afterwards!

Mark is heavily involved in outreach and explained how solar astronomy fits in with modern lifestyles, works in spite of light pollution and is a great way of getting others involved in our hobby – something we have noticed before at Rosliston Forestry Centre science days.


Awards for Ed and Julian for reading the charity paperwork!

Our guest speaker, Mark Townley gave out awards for going beyond the call of duty by reading all of the charity application paperwork to two members of our committee, Ed Mann and Julian Palmer (The latter in abstentia). This was a major task – be warned that this is what you might need to do if you join the RAG committee!